Confessions of an RPG Nerd

By Christine Martin-Resotko

So, not all your players are theater nerds….

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I polled the community on the Facebook group to see what questions folks had, and the one that came up a lot was “How do you handle extrovert vs. introvert players so everyone has fun?”  This is a fantastic question, but it can be a little tricky to put into play.  Hopefully, I can give you some strategies to help you create a game that everyone can enjoy.

I freely admit, the first long term group I played in was filled with a lot of theater nerds.  We all did high school theater, but weren’t interested in that kind of time commitment in college.  Of the entire group, I was the most shy.  I barely recognize me in that player now.  Because I come at this issue from both sides, I think I have some good ideas.

First, identify your players’ styles.  It is easy to nail down the extrovert, but the introverts require a little more examination.  Are they just shy, or do you have someone with another issue?  In the adult group I GM for at another library branch, we have someone on the Autism Spectrum.  It’s not so much that he is shy, it is that he is socially awkward.  This requires a much different approach.  Newbies can also be very quiet at first, but they can quickly change to one of your extroverts in no time.

Second, start each game with some strategies in mind.  If you have newer players or someone with a disability, see if you can seat them near one of your more experienced players.  That player can be their mentor and help them find stuff on their character sheet, answer quick questions that they don’t want to throw out to the whole group, and encourage them to speak up.  This is what we do with our Autistic player, and it works really well.  The very shy folks can benefit from the same idea, but I like to encourage them to sit near me when I GM.  That way I can hear a quieter voice if they say something, and I can also talk to them quietly while the group is debating something.  With this strategy, the shy player feels like they are easily able to get the GM’s attention without drawing a ton of attention to themselves.  You can also use the old fashioned “raise the hand” method if someone is more comfortable with that.

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As a GM, I can’t say this enough…MAKE SURE YOU CALL ON EVERYONE IN A SITUATION!  When the tension builds, the voices get louder, and the quiet folks can feel ignored.  If I can’t hear one person, I shush the entire group.  I tell them that we need to hear from everyone there, and then call on the quiet folks.  A lot of the time, a question or action they bring up sparks new conversation with the rest of the group and draws the quiet one in.  Also, I put out some Post-Its or small pads of paper and tell the group that they can write down their questions and pass them to me.  I’ll read them while conversation is continuing, and write a quick response or pull that player aside to talk with them.  Occasionally, in my home game, I’ll tailor a few sessions around my quieter players.  It makes them more invested in the game, and gets the extroverts talking to them.  This slowly draws them out, and they lose some of their shyness with the group.  If all else fails, go around the group one at a time and ask each person for ideas or questions about the current situation.

This is a tough balance to reach, but I am confident that you can find a method that works for you.  It just takes time and patience.  It is worth the effort, because you will end up with better players and a more cohesive group. Send me your questions!  I want to know what my readers want to learn about RPGs.

Christine Martin-Resotko is a Library Assistant with the Mason Branch of the
Capital Area District Libraries in Michigan. She has been a lifelong nerd, starting
when she saw Star Wars at the age of 5. She started playing RPGs when she was
in college, and within 4 years was invited by a gaming company to run their game
at GenCon, the biggest gaming convention in the country. She has run games in
over a dozen systems, and personally owns more than 30 game systems at this
time. Christine created the CADL Adventurers Club for her library system, which
encompasses a teen chapter at her branch which she runs and adult and kids
chapters at another branch that she assists with. Christine has a B.S. in
Anthropology from Michigan State University. She lives with her husband, son,
and their crazy cat.

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